From the blog Straight from the Heart, a post on returning the Kiss of Peace to the Liturgy. I've been to parishes where this is done. Of those Orthodox parishes I have visited that do it, it has a decidedly chatty, happy feel most Catholics will find reminiscent of a Novus Ordo mass. It need not be that conversational, though, and I have seen "successful" occurrences in Coptic, Maronite, etc. churches. Thoughts?
|The peace in the Coptic tradition|
This desire to avoid others at church and reduce worship to a private act is deeply ingrained in the fallen human heart, which instinctively builds walls to keep the other out. It found a peculiarly American expression in the institution of “drive-in churches” where a family drove into a church parking lot and remained isolated in their cars for the duration of the service. (I’m not making this up.) According a description in a 1967 edition of Time magazine, “Many worshipers are attracted by the lack of usual Sunday formality, and show up in everything from bathing suits to pajamas...Ushers distribute printed hymns as the cars roll in, help plug in speakers, take car-to-car collections during the service or request worshipers to place donations in a bin on the way out. Some drive-ins also pass out car-to-car wafers and grape juice for Communion…Some pastors try to talk briefly with churchgoers as they roll out through the gates; (one pastor) even encourages his mobile congregation to greet visiting preachers with ‘a gentle, dignified horn toot.’”
What is lacking in all this, whether it be the venerable Anglican institution of the 8 am service or the tragi-comic fad of the drive-in church, is the recognition that Christian liturgy is a corporate act, something done by a united body of people, the royal priesthood of the church (see 1 Peter 2:9), and not by private individuals who regard the presence of others at worship as an unfortunate but necessary distraction.
This corporate understanding of Christian worship is at the foundation of the apostolic practice of exchanging the Kiss of Peace, (or “the holy kiss” as they called it; 1 Cor. 16:20). From the days of the apostles, “at every Christian synaxis (or gathering)”, the faithful exchanged the Kiss, sealing all their intercessions with the sign of unity. The original place for the Kiss was “immediately after the prayers at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, for its pristine purpose was to conclude the synaxis of readings and prayers…It was the symbol of fraternal love that sealed the Christian service” (Robert Taft, The Great Entrance, pp. 375, 376).
How did this work? In the earliest times, it would seem that the Kiss was given indiscriminately, between all Christians regardless of gender, and on the lips. (We recall how this was the way St. Mary of Egypt gave the Kiss to Zosimas before receiving Holy Communion.) In the earliest days when the Church was persecuted by the pagan state, the group assembling for the synaxis was a small intimate one which knew one another well, and such mixing of gender was not much of a problem. Later, and especially after the Peace of the Church under Constantine, the numbers grew dramatically, and propriety demanded a separation of genders, with the men standing on one side and the women and children on the other. But even then the Peace was still exchanged and given on the lips, with the men greeting the men standing immediately around them and the women doing likewise with the women around them...